The history of the province goes back to the 1300s, which is known as the Ayutthaya era. It was two centuries later, during the reign of Naresuan (from 1555 to 1605) that the province gained importance in Thailand. The French tried in the early 20th century, before the start of World War II, to colonize Thailand, but they did not succeed. As a result, Thailand was never colonized or subjugated by a foreign country, including Europe. Since there was little foreign influence, the province subsisted on agriculture and fishing. It did not become industrialized or modernized before the 21st century. It was only in the past ten years that Ko Chang became a major tourist attraction. The past ten years brought a lot of tourist recognition and investors.
It was actually the backpackers who were the first to discover the entire beauty of the ocean, beaches and area in the 1970s. Expensive real estate development did not start until 2001, when the current Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra at the time, made a commitment to turn the island into an expensive and luxurious tourist destination. Fortunately, there are still many affordable, lower cost and quality hostels and guest houses near the beach where you can have the time of your life as you dance, enjoy bonfires, scuba dive, sightsee, dine, meet new people and participate in fun and lively activities.
You will be able to go to Koh Chang wherever you are right now. It is accessible in many ways. Air travel is probably the most convenient. The two closest airports are the tiny Trat Airport and the large and modern Suvarnabhumi Airport. Airlines like Thai Airways, Emirates, ANA and Bangkok Airways fly to Trat or Suvarnabhumi Airport. Bangkok Airways has a direct flight to Trat. Flights are scheduled 3 times daily, 7 days a week. It’s best to book your flight online because it’s cheaper and easier to modify. Click on the link to reach Bangkok Air’s website.
You can also book your trip through a travel agent. Thailand is a tourist haven. You will not have any problem finding a dependable agency. As a precaution, call the airlines to check the status of your flight a day or two before your departure. Once you arrive at the airport, you will need to take the ferry to get to your lodging. Your hotel will likely provide traveling instructions and a transportation service to pick you upon arrival and bring you back to the airport upon departure. If the lodging does not provide the service, you can reserve seating in a private minibus at the airport.
Remember that from the airport, you will always need to board a ferry to get to your hotel. Your options are:
- A public bus stops at the Transportation Center, which is part of the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Take the free shuttle to the Transportation Center. Then take bus #999 of Transport Company Ltd. to the ferry. This is a government bus that runs from 7:30 and 9:30 in the morning. The ride to the Center Point Ferry Pier and Ferry Koh Chang. It’s also known as Ao Thammacha. The ride takes 5 to 6 hours. Your fare includes a snack on-board and a 15 minute stop on the way. Make sure to inquire if the ticket includes the ferry.
- A private transfer by minibus or car is also an option. Both services are available at the two airports. The ride is smooth, cool and comfortable. The minibus seats 8 people. It is affordable. Remember that the US dollars and English pounds go a long way in here. $1.00 is the equivalent of about 33 Thai Bhat. The car, on the other hand, will cost about 4,600 BH for two people in a Toyota or Honda. This is about $136.00 for two people. Both fares include everything from the tax, gas, tolls to the ferry tickets. There are many sites online where you can make a reservation.
- You can also drive. Budget and Hertz Rental Car offer vehicles with GPS in English. It’s simple and easy to drive in Thailand. Here is an outline of directions from Bangkok: Drive through Bangna-Trat road/motorway. It’s also known as High 7 to Highway 344. Follow 344 and Highway 3, near Klaeng. Turn left at signpost marked 3156 to Laem Ngop. It’s a T-junction. Drive until you arrive at Ferry Koh Chang, which is also known as Ao Thammacht Pier. To reach Centerpoint, which is another pier, drive 5 km east of Ferry Koh Chang. The piers have parking places where you can park your car.
- You can also take a cab from the Bangkok Airport to the pier where you can take the ferry. You will need to negotiate with the driver and offer him a good financial incentive to drive you there since the trip takes about 5 to 6 hours. It would be about 10 to 12 hours for him round trip without any fare. You will probably have to spend about 4,000 Bhats.
Once you’ve arrived on the island, you can go from place to place by taking a cab or songtaew. You can also rent a scooter or motorbike, which is the easiest way of getting around. There are many reputable rental bike shops in town where you can learn how to use the scooter before leasing it. You can practically do an internet search and then call them.
When renting the motorbike, you will need to present an identification card with your photo. You can use your passport. A monetary deposit is also required. Before you leave the shop, make a note to do these things:
- Check the brakes. Test it several times to see how effective it is.
- Feel the tires. Make sure that they are firm. Refuse bikes with thin and worn tires.
- Ride and test the scooter for safety before renting it.
- Make sure that the lights work in case you have to be out at night.
- Make sure that there are no loose joints or nails.
- Take a detailed picture of the scooter so that the shop cannot accuse you of any existing damage.
- Put the scooter’s license plate and the shop’s phone number in your cell phone once you’ve rented it.
- Rent a helmet.
It’s important to be careful while driving it. Remember that there are hairpin bends and that you are not used to the roads so do not drive fast. Wear a helmet. The road is often uneven. If you are a new driver, do not drive after dark, in busy traffic and far away without getting comfortable with it first.
Check your fuel before you rent the scooter and confirm with the shop whether it is low or full in order to prevent them from charging you for an additional fuel charge. If the tank is not full, you’ll need to add fuel. Here’s what you need to remember:
- The scooters use ’91’ gasoline.
- There are gas stations in Klong Son, Chai Chet and Klong Prao. You can fill up there.
- A gas attendant will add put the fuel.
- Do not buy fuel from the roadside stalls where it is sold in old whiskey bottles.
Culture, Nightlife and Lonely Beach
Once upon a time, only the natives and a few backpackers were aware of its incredible loveliness and pristine beaches of Lonely Beach. Now that Thailand has become a major tourist destination, Lonely Beach is not lonely anymore. Lively and bustling with young people, it’s still highly recommendable to spend your holidays there. There are so many positive things about the place. The culture in Lonely Beach and in Koh Chang and the affordability of dwelling places, food and activities are major factors.
Life in Koh Chang is unhurried and authentically Asian. You will not feel the same tension and pressure that other towns and cities have. You will forget to worry about things that make you anxious like the crummy train and bus rides to and from work, pollution, violent crimes, rude strangers and feeling burnout. The air is tropical and fresh. English is spoken everywhere. There are many young tourists. You will be delighted at the availability and affordability of fresh seafood in restaurants. The people are easy going, friendly, helpful and hospitable.
If you want to escape from your demanding job and unreasonable people, Lonely Beach is the place to start. It’s a party beach in a happy island. There are western bars and inexpensive Thai and western food. There is never a dull or lonely moment. You can stay at one of the many cheap guesthouses and bungalows that cater to backpackers. There are also upscale and luxurious hotels in the area should you want to be thoroughly pampered.
Lonely Beach is clean and exciting. Examples of their resorts are Paradise Cottage, Nature Beach, Nest Sense, Warapura and Bhumiyama. The hostels are Marco’s, Thale, Janrassamee, BB, Sleepy Owl, My Hostel, Oom and Stay Inn. The bungalows are Little Eden, Lonely Beach Resort, Sunflower, Oasis, Seaflower, Siam Huts and Magic Garden. The nightlife on the beach is fun. There are DJs who play danceable music and bartenders who will serve your favorite cocktails every night on the beach itself. You and party until dawn and meet fun loving travelers.
For most people, interaction with elephants is rare. In Koh Chang, there are elephants camps where you can pet and feed the elephants. It’s not advisable to ride them because their backs are not meant to carry weight. In fact, you will see signs that prohibit riding the elephants because it is a form of abuse that damages their backs. If you see a camp that offers elephant rides, please do not patronize their business to prevent harming the creatures. You can, however, play and pet them. Elephants love tenderness. Talk to them with gentleness. They are intelligent and responsive creatures. You will be delighted at how they use their trunks to pat you and play with you in response. Their trunks are strong and powerful so make sure you are strong enough to play with them.
The best elephant camp is Baan Kwan Chang. It is located in Klong Son. Situated away from the busy areas, the location is tranquil. The atmosphere promotes relaxation for people and the elephants. The owner of the place is a strong advocate of elephant welfare and sustainable development. There are no souvenir shops and hawkers. The people who run the place are gracious and accommodating. You can feed the elephants with bananas, which they love. Do not peel it. They eat the whole banana. Split it in two so that you do not run out of bananas. Baan Kwan Chang is the best camp to visit. All their elephants look happy and healthy. It is surrounded by farms and vegetation. The natural setting makes a big difference.
The other elephant camps are Klong Plu Elephant Camp, Baan Chang Thai, Baan Camp Chang and Chang Chutiman. The camps house about 8 to 10 elephants.
Monkeys are everywhere in the province. Cute as they are, do not forget that they are unpredictable and wild creatures. The monkeys living in the province are actually macaques. Macaques are small and social. They travel and live in groups. Feel free to admire them from a distance. They like to go to town and play by the roadside. They are often a common and welcome sight, and people feed them with fruits and bread. The National Park, however, has prohibited feeding the monkeys. You will be fined if you are caught feeding them because it is not advantageous to their overall health and welfare to expect food from humans. Here are the reasons why it’s a bad idea to feed the monkeys:
- They do not need to eat a lot of fruits. They need to eat leaves, flowers, roots and bark for a balance diet.
- Expecting to be fed by people who toss them food as a way of life is very bad. This makes them lazy and fat.
- They do not need an overload of sugar and starch. This creates a sugar dependence or a sugar fix.
- Feeding them puts them at people’s mercy, which does not work to their advantage.
- It also creates an idle mind and body. They need to exercise both.
- Feeding the monkeys can also be very dangerous for people and the animal. Monkeys have been run over by vehicles while crossing the street to get the food that was tossed in the middle of the road. Accidents have also happened to drivers who braked suddenly in order to stop their vehicle from hitting the monkeys.
- Monkeys can be rabid. If you get bitten bitten, you will need painful rabies shots. They can also be infected with Hepatitis B, which is the herpes virus.
Here are more things to do and enjoy:
Visit a Buddhist temple: Wet Bangbao is a historic temple that is near the Bangbao school and crematorium. It is a comprised of a complex of temples and bungalows where the monks live. There is a stupa or chedis that contains holy relics and deceased local nobility for meditation.
Go scuba diving and snorkeling: The island is rich with marine life. The coral reefs are diverse and spectacularly colorful. You can rent a scuba outfit and gear or learn how to scuba dive and snorkel from the hotel staff.
Go island hopping: The local tourist offices offer a day or afternoon’s worth of boat trips to tiny islands like Koh Rang, Koh Ngam and Koh Laoya. You can join a group of people or have a guide accompany you.
Visit the waterfalls: There are 7 waterfalls in the province. Your senses will savor the purity and their magnificence. You will not have any problems reaching them with a motorbike or scooter.
Hike and trek up and down the mountains and jungles: It’s advisable to hire a guide when you trekk on the island. There are many tourist offices that can accommodate you. The guides are professional. They know how to keep you safe from snakes, wild boar and dangerous animals that you will encounter in the jungle. Also, the guides can answer any question you have pertaining the animals and fauna that surrounds you. You will not get desperately lost with a guide. You can also ask the guide to take you to places that you want to see.